Protein Principles for Diabetes
by: Protica Research
Dietary considerations can present a Hobson's choice in
diabetes. Even when the intake is nutritious, assimilating it
can be another matter. Then there is the problem of progression
of diabetic complications if one ends up with excess glucose or
fat in the system. Excess carbohydrates in a meal, and the
resulting uncontrolled blood sugar levels can be detrimental to
any number of tissues, from the lens of the eye, to the neurons,
small blood vessels and the kidneys. Fat is also a problem with
increase incidences of atherosclerosis, large vessel disease and
cardiac complications. What, then is the appropriate
macronutrient for the diabetic population? Enough medical
literature exists to suggest that in diabetes, proteins are
probably the best bet.
Proteins are the natural choice of the body when faced with
diabetes. In uncontrolled diabetes, muscle protein is broken
down into amino acids to be converted into glucose by the liver.
If left to fend for itself, this can create a commotion within
the body. Since proteins have to supply enough energy to
substitute for carbohydrates, proteins are broken down faster
than they are made. The body ends up with a protein deficit, a
situation with subtle, yet far-reaching effects on normal body
functions. Importantly, for diabetics, a protein deficit has
been shown to impair resistance to infections (Ganong WF).
Replenishing the depleting protein stores is a vital requirement
of all diabetic diets.
Importance of proteins in a diabetic has been well documented.
The American Associations of Clinical Endocrinologists have made
it clear that not much evidence exists to indicate that the
patients with diabetes need to reduce their intake of dietary
proteins. The AACE recommends that 10-20% of the calorie intake
in diabetes should come from proteins (AACE Diabetes
Guidelines). It is in fact believed that this is one nutrient
that does not increase blood glucose levels in both diabetics
and healthy subjects (Gannon et al).
Nutrition therapy for diabetes has progressed from prevention of
obesity or weight gain to improving insulin's effectiveness and
contributing to improved metabolic control (Franz MJ). In this
new role, a high protein diet (30% of total food energy) forms a
very pertinent part of nutrition therapy. One of the most
important causes for type II diabetes is obesity. Excess body
fat raises insulin resistance and higher levels of insulin are
required to bring down blood sugars as the weight increases
(Ganong WF). Another problem with excess fat is the clogging of
arteries with atherosclerotic plaques that is responsible for a
wide range of diabetic complications. Any mechanism that reduces
body fat decreases insulin resistance and improves blood glucose
control. Parker et al have also shown that a high protein diet
decreased abdominal and total fat mass in women with type II
diabetes. Other studies by Gannon et al. and Nuttall et al have
verified that blood glucose levels and glycosylated hemoglobin
(a marker of long term diabetic control) reduce after 5 weeks on
a diet containing 30% of the total food energy in the form of
proteins and low carbohydrate content. It is speculated that a
high protein diet has a favorable effect in diabetes due to the
ability of proteins and amino acids to stimulate insulin release
from the pancreas. Thus, a high protein diet is not only safe in
diabetes, but can also be therapeutic, resulting in improved
glycemic control, and decreased risk of complications related to
The benefits of a high protein diet do not end here. Individual
protein components of such a diet, when aptly chosen, can have
other advantages as well. Dietary supplements containing
proteins like whey and casein come highly recommended. Casein is
a milk protein and has the ability to form a gel or clot in the
stomach. The ability to form this clot makes it very efficient
in nutrient supply. The clot is able to provide a sustained,
slow release of amino acids into the blood stream, sometimes
lasting for several hours (Boirie et al. 1997). A slow sustained
release of nutrients matches well with the limited amount of
insulin that can be produced by the pancreas in diabetes. A
protein supplement containing casein can thus increase the
amount of energy assimilated from every meal and, at the same
time, reduce the need for pharmacological interventions to
control blood sugar.
Whey proteins and caseins also contain "casokinins" and
"lactokinins', (FitzGerald) which have been found to decrease
both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive
humans (Seppo). In addition, whey protein forms bioactive amine
in the gut that promotes immunity. Whey protein contains an
ample supply of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine appears to
enhance glutathione levels, which has been shown to have strong
antioxidant properties -- antioxidants mop up free radicals that
induce cell death and play a role in aging.
Thus, development of a protein supplement containing casein and
whey can provide an apt high protein diet and its health
benefits to individuals suffering from diabetes, obesity and
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and Beaufrere, B. (1997) Slow and fast dietary proteins
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Franz MJ. Prioritizing diabetes nutrition recommendations based
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Gannon et al An increase in dietary protein improves the blood
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Gannon MC, Nuttall J A, Damberg G. Effect of protein ingestion
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Nuttall et al. The Metabolic Response of Subjects with Type II
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Founded in 2001, Protica, Inc. is a nutritional research firm
with offices in Lafayette Hill and Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
Protica manufactures capsulized foods, including Profect, a
compact, hypoallergenic, ready-to-drink protein beverage
containing zero carbohydrates and zero fat.
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